Jade Lee and Hafeezah Salaam first became friends when they realized they were the only two students with children in their nursing course at Temple University.
“We were having a 10-15 minute break and the first thing that came out of [Jade’s] mouth was about the kids and [their] aftercare,” Salaam said.
“It just kind of kicked off from there,” Lee added.
The 2004 alumnae spent the next decade of their friendship as nurses, commonly treating patients with obesity-related health conditions, like diabetes and hypertension. They often saw patients struggling, but rarely saw real solutions to their problems.
“Being in clinical rotations and seeing the problem but not fully seeing that there’s any real solution or really good effort being made to create a solution or help to fix the problems that exist? It’s almost futile in a way,” Lee said.
The two wanted to change this, so they opened a Wellzone Medical Weight Loss Clinic in Mount Airy to help patients lead a healthy lifestyle. For almost a year, the two have treated patients through personalized weight loss plans involving herbal supplements, detoxification, exercise and mediation.
For Lee and Salaam, an integral part of being a nurse practitioner is educating their patients on how diet and lifestyle change is important for their weight loss journey, and how they can gradually achieve their goals in an inexpensive way.
“We grew up with families that may not have had so much money for a particular meal, so you get what’s affordable,” Salaam said. “So we know [that with] the diet that may be amongst a certain community, you can still pick the healthiest choices from what’s before you.”
They give a community-focused approach, something they learned in their community health rotations during their senior year at Temple. These rotations allow nursing students to work in different locations in the city, like high schools and nursing homes.
“Without Temple, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Lee said. “Those experiences change what your perception of a patient is and what needs to be done in healthcare, [they] really set the stage on wanting to be a face in the community.”
Meghan Griffin, a client and former colleague of Lee at the Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania, visited the clinic after she gained weight after having a miscarriage.. She began her weight loss plan at Wellzone in June, which included a diet and exercise plan with vitamin shots. She has lost 39 pounds since starting the plan.
“I was really excited that it was personalized on each person and not cookie cutter for a group of people,” Griffin said.
“We believe that you really got to plant yourself in a community, look relatable, be educated and then create your own policies and procedures where the client trust you and feels safe, and then wants to come back,” Lee said.